How good were the standards of living in the USSR in comparison to Western European countries with a free market?

13 Answers

Relevance
  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    In 1970 (the pinnacle of Soviet standard) around 50-55 % of the standard of the US (average American citizens) and a bit closer to Western Europe (around 60%). Before and after 1970 the standard was lower compared to Western Europe.

  • L
    Lv 5
    1 month ago

    Since the USSR is Communist - I doubt their standards of living are very good at all.

  • 1 month ago

    A true story that may help you grasp something of how poor and limited were the choices available to standard Soviet citizens:

    A group of Soviet workers was allowed to visit West Germany for a few days, going round factories and farms and so on. They were allowed half an hour to look round a pretty basic German department store, something on the level of Kaufhof.

    At the end of the half hour one woman from the group hadn't returned. The KGB man in charge of them searched the store, and found the woman crouched weeping on the floor beside a display of women's knickers. They were cheap cotton, nothing fancy, but in a rainbow of different colours.

    The woman had never seen such an array of CHOICE in her life and it had overwhelmed her both physically and mentally. Until then, she had had no idea such glamour and choice existed in the world.

    EDIT TO ADD: I don't know why the thumb down. This is a true story, and not untypical of a  Soviet citizen's reaction to a first sight of western "riches".

  • Fred
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Compared to the western countries the people living in the USSR had a much more poorer lifestyle.  Few Russians owned a car and you would order it and pay for it years before you received it.  Most USSR citizens lived in rented apartments in row after row of high rise apartment blocks.  These generally were very small 2 bedroom apartments where the children shared one bedroom and the parents had the other.  Sometimes where housing was short people may have to share their apartment with other people.  Food was more basic than westerners ate and queuing for long periods at shops for food supplies was common.  There was little choice in things like tooth paste or other household items as there would be one government factory supplying each of all the items people needed.  There was a ban on western rock music which the government believed would stir the younger generation into revolt against the government and was considered decadent and unnecessary and destructive to Russian culture but they could not stop the young Russians listening to it on their radios.  Even Vladimir Putin was a Beatles fan.  The secret police had files on everyone and any sign of discontent or crime was severely punished.  Many people were forced to spy on their neighbors and friends and report to the secret police anything they found.   The government paid all wages and everyone basically had a government supplied job.  Most people were allocated a job for life even if they didn't like it.  If the government said you will be a coal miner then that is what your life would be.  Those who got higher qualifications had opportunities to have jobs they were qualified in.  Wages were generally decided by the amount of physical work you did and a wharf worker earned a lot more than say a doctor, scientist or school teacher.   Little thought was given to safety and westerners heard stories like when their navy's nuclear ships were decommissioned men were made to unload the nuclear material with no protective gear.  Nuclear spillages were common across the USSR and Russia today is one of the most nuclear polluted countries in the world.  To give everyone employment there was little modernization or automation in the factories so factories stayed as modern as they were in the 1940s in most cases.  This made the USSR very inefficient and finally was its downfall.  Alcoholism was a very common problem in Russia as there was very little else most men could do when not working.  Some people turned up for work drunk and were not reprimanded for it as in theory in communism there are no bosses to fire you.  It is supposed to be a society where everyone is equal and no one can order another person around.  A lot of people did very little work for their government supplied wages.

      During the 1970s the USSR started to struggle to find the money to pay for workers and its military.  Their military was trying to keep up with America's but the USSR communist ways did not give it the spare money for all the things they wanted to look strong and powerful against the west such as a strong military and a modern space industry.  Finally Russia struggled to buy grain from western countries as they could not produce enough for their people's needs.  Bread became harder for the people of the USSR to find as well as other food staples.  Lines at shops got longer and you may have to stand in line outside a shop that had a supply of bread in the Russian winter for 2 hours before getting served.  As the situation got worse the government could no longer pay wages regularly and a person could wait 3 months with no pay until their turn to be paid came round.

      In the late 80s the USSR was led by Mikhail Gorbachev who realized the USSR was in serious trouble and finally to the annoyance of many leaders in the USSR announced to the people that the previous leaders had lied to them claiming that Russians lived way better lives than westerners and the fact was the capitalists had way superior lives to the Communists and it was time to accept Communism had been a failure.   Suddenly The communist people of the USSR were given freedoms they never believed possible but the fact was many were no longer to be paid by the government as many jobs were dropped.  There was huge poverty for the next 10 years or so and the Russian military crumbled.  Many countries forced into the USSR instead of being given back their freedom after liberation from German control during WW2 suddenly broke free and became democratic.  Some high ranking Russian leaders tried to take over the government from Gorbachev but the people forced them to back down.

      Today the USSR is dead and gone and basically it is now a capitalist country but people like Putin spends a lot of money that could be spent better on building Russia's economy by spending it on weapons that will make Russia look powerful again in the world's eyes.  The Russian economy is still a poorly performing economy and even though it has 145 million people its economic performance is easily equaled by a country like Australia that only has 25 million people.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Not great.  Consumers tended to have lower quality products and less choice in the marketplace.  There's a story that Boris Yeltsin said that he realized the Soviets were going to lose the Cold War when he was on a diplomatic trip to the US and went to a supermarket.  The sheer array of goods which Americans had access to was more than even the Soviet elite had. 

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Depends what era.

  • 1 month ago

    People in the USSR stood in food lines on a daily basis like modern people stand in line to get the latest Apple phone.  And while Apple usually has enough phones, the USSR did not always have enough food.

  • John P
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Much lower, but everybody had a home of some sort.  In the first few years after the USSR collapsed, there was much 'spiv capitalism' in Russia, and many people starved.

    Things are better now, but the leadership refuses to acknowledge how ridiculous the country sometimes appears to the world in general.

  • A.J.
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    There are no free markets and no society today is fully capitalist or socialist. Each fails for different reasons. The capitalist economy is a continuing concentration of wealth leading to a corrupt government and control of all systems. 

  • 1 month ago

    No one is fleeing to the entrails that they have to get through to the former U.S.S.R..

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.